Leader of the Pack

by Mason Kelley

For as long as she can remember, Lindsey Egerdahl has always loved sports.

As a child she tried them all, trying to find one that fit. She especially loved soccer, but in eighth grade decided to give track a try.

A week later, she wanted to quit.

'I went to the coach and I said, 'Look, I quit, I can't do this anymore,'' she says. 'To quit was a really big deal for me, but my coach wouldn't let me. He said, 'No, you did well in P.E. in the mile. Take a day off - two if you need it - and I'll see you when you come back.' I just sat there dumbfounded. I was quitting! It had taken a lot of guts for me to go to my coach and quit.'

Egerdahl took her day off and, as the coach had predicted, returned to practice. Her opponents would soon wish she hadn't.

With little or no training, Egerdahl dominated the prep ranks in the mile, going undefeated in the event during her eighth-grade year. She continued to excel the following year at Auburn High School, earning a fifth-place finish at the 1997 Class 4A state cross-country meet and never placing below seventh in four years of state competition.

Ultimately, it was track that earned Egerdahl the chance to continue her love for sports at the collegiate level. With three sisters at in-state colleges, staying close to home was always the first option.

'When I made the decision where to go to college, there was an underlying pressure to stay close because all of my sisters stayed in state,' says Egerdahl. 'I came on my recruiting trip here and it just fit. Also, I wanted to be somwhere where I could watch my niece grow up and have my parents around to watch races. They have been so supportive that I thought they deserved that.'

Egerdahl had gotten by on natural talent at the prep level, but when she arrived on the UW campus in the fall of 2001, she quickly discovered that it would take more than just talent to stand out on a squad that has qualified for the NCAA Championships every year since 1997.

'I came in my freshman year scared and out of shape,' she says. 'I was 10th on our team, the only freshman not to travel. All I wanted that year was to some way impact my team.'

For Egerdahl, it felt like she was back in eighth grade, surrounded by frustration. Just as she had back then, though, she stuck with it, and soon everything began to change.

'The first two weeks I kept calling my mom and saying, 'I can't do this! I am not cut out for this,'' she says. 'Then my sophomore year, I ran second on our team, and all of the sudden the pieces just fell into place.'

Egerdahl's sophomore campaign was a complete reversal of all that had ailed her as a freshman. She was Washington's second runner at both the NCAA Regional and NCAA Championships, and earned a seventh-place finish in the 1,500 meters at the Pac-10 Championships. It is this ability to improve significantly from year to year that makes Egerdahl love her sport.

'I do this because you can see success,' she says. 'I am the type of person that likes to gauge where I'm at, and success in this sport is something that measures that. A clock never lies, you know exactly where you are.'

This year, with no seniors on the UW cross-country squad, Egerdahl has been named a co-captain, along with junior Camille Connelly.

'I'm the youngest of four girls in my family, so I am really used to knowing when to shut up and when to step up,' she says. 'I have been fortunate to have had amazing girls in front of me, both in high school and in college, who have showed me the path to success. Now it's my time to step forward and be that kind of a leader for the young girls on our team.'

There certainly isn't a person on the team Egerdahl can't relate to, from the most successful runner to the girl in last who isn't sure whether she belongs. With a young team behind them, and a streak of seven-straight NCAA Championships appearances on the line, the captains will have their work cut out for them this fall.

'We definitely want to make it to nationals and place well,' she says. 'We are young, but we have seen what it takes to be great. The enthusiasm is high, and the potential for growth is unlimited. I couldn't be more excited to lead this team.'

It is up to Egerdahl to pass on to her teammates the lessons she has learned - stay positive, believe in yourself, and most importantly, never give up.

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